1787
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Licinius Murena. From Horace, Book II. Ode X.

Gentleman's Magazine 57 (February 1787) 169.

Anna Seward


Anna Seward conveys Horace's sober advice to Licinius in four irregular Spenserians (ababccdD): "The Mind, well disciplined, when Sorrow lowers, | Chears her pale eye with Hope's enlivening rays; | And when soft Pleasure boasts of lasting powers, | With jealous doubt the promiser surveys." In this instance one might think that the stanza was selected to suggest Thomas Gray's Hymn to Adversity. The poem was published with a long note setting out the historical circumstances that gave rise to the poem.

Anna Seward to Henry Francis Cary: "I am extremely flattered, and anew delighted, my dear ingenious Cary, by the poetic tribute with which you have honoured my Horatian Odes. Except Anacreon, Horace is certainly the gayest and lightest of the lyric poets. You say he has not a Pindaric feather in his wing. To me he often appears to have flashes of sublimity, at least, along the course of his odes. They frequently shone upon me through the dim veil of a literal prose translation; — but it is my creed, that verse-literality draws off all the spirit of an author. It was the creed of Dryden and Pope — as is evident from their always infusing a portion of new and original matter into their translations" 19 July 1788; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 2:148-49.



Not always, dear Licinius, is it wise
On the main sea to ply the daring oar;
Nor is it safe, in dread of angry skies,
To keep too near to the perfidious shore.
To no excess discerning spirits lean;
They feel the blessings of the golden mean;
They will not grovel in the squalid cell,
Nor seek in royal domes, with envied pomp to dwell.

The pine, that lifts so high her stately bough,
Writhes in the storms, and withers in their blight,
Which o'er the neighbouring trees innoxious blow,
That wave their branches in an humbler height.
As the loud fury of the whirlwind pours,
With direct ruin fall the loftiest towers;
And 'tis the mountain's summit that, oblique,
From the dark lurid clouds, the baleful lightnings strike.

The Mind, well disciplined, when Sorrow lowers,
Chears her pale eye with Hope's enlivening rays;
And when soft Pleasure boasts of lasting powers,
With jealous doubt the promiser surveys.
It is the same dread Jove, that thro' the sky
Hurls the loud storms, that darken as they fly;
And whose benignant hand withdraws the gloom,
And spreads rekindling light in all its living bloom.

To-day the soul perceives a weight of woe;
A whiter morrow shall gay thoughts inspire;
Does Phoebus always been the vengeful bow?
Wakes he not often the harmonious lyre?
Be thou, when danger scowls in every wave,
Watchful, collected, spirited, and brave;
But in the sunny skies, the flattering gales,
Contract, with steady hand, thy too-expanding sails.

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